Joseph Perez-Green / envelopeA+D

Project utilizes a plot of land awaiting development as temporary site for local business

Technically, it’s a stalled development site, but a small plot of land in San Francisco has been transformed into a new collection of pop-up businesses operating on a temporary basis out of metal shipping containers. Retailers, including an ice cream shop and a coffee roaster, began moving in earlier this year.

And just a few weeks ago, local German-style restaurant Suppenküche opened Biergarten, a 99-seat outdoor beer and food spot in the city’s Hayes Valley neighborhood. It’s created a new nightspot for a city with a strong culture of going out, and seems to already have caught on. For an indication of the crowd that’s embraced this non-traditional bar, nearly 300 people have checked in to Biergarten on Foursquare in the past two weeks.

These temporary outlets are part of a two-block temporary project called proxy, developed by Envelope Architecture + Design, a local firm. It’s a flexible form of urbanism that provides space for a variety of uses by taking advantage of land left empty.

A placeholder for a more permanent building, proxy is a temporary two-block construct that imagines a vibrant focal point for commerce and community. proxy is conceived in relation to the realization that, due to the economic downturn, the sites left over from the path of the former Central Freeway, which slice through San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, will be left undeveloped for several years to come. In the meantime, we contend that these sites can be occupied by temporary inhabitations of retail, restaurant, art gallery, garden and community-based uses that add to the richness and diversity of Hayes Valley.

The space is slated to be replaced by a housing project, eventually. But while the market’s down, proxy is making use of the space in a way that costs little, provides space for local businesses and creates a new space for the community. Retailers are expected to cycle in and out, making a space that is continually changing and able to meet a variety of demands. 

The whole concept is a unique approach to addressing the often years-long processes that precede the actual opening of development projects. And given the number of projects that have been either delayed or stalled out, it’s a nice way to get a little extra use out of a space that would otherwise sit empty. Empty and beerless.

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